White Knuckles: Sleep Is the New Frontier

June 29th, 2011 by Kim Lenz

In college, I drew the short straw in the off-campus house we shared as seniors. My “bedroom” was a converted dining room, separated from our perpetually noisy living room by only a set of French doors.

I somehow managed to convince a girl to go out with me my senior year, but she always got frustrated on the rare occasions she stayed over because of the endless noise from the living room.

“It’s only 1 a.m.,” I’d say, explaining why my friends were still causing a ruckus on the other side of the French doors.

“People need to sleep, you know. Brendan, I’m old,” she’d explain patiently. I was always puzzled. She was a few years older than me, but who couldn’t stay up until 1 a.m.?

Well, me. At least not any more.

I didn’t even notice my circadian rhythms change at first. When you first become a parent, you’re up at totally random intervals. My youngest, the boy, essentially didn’t sleep at all the first six weeks of his life. I ended up watching most of the Beijing Olympics live in the middle of the night.

Now that the kids have settled into a routine, however, they’ve become champion sleepers, and early risers. Our daughter especially.

So, since we don’t want to wake up to someone pulling our sheets off the bed (happened) or sticking a wet finger in our ear (also happened … the ol’ Wet Willy), we started setting our alarm for a punishing 5:45 a.m.

After six months, we don’t even need it. We’re both wide awake by the time it goes off. Only one of us is cheerful, but we’re wide awake.

One byproduct of our changed calendar is it’s demolished our television viewing habits. I noticed this at work last year when a few colleagues were talking about that weekend’s Saturday Night Live. I thought to myself, “I was in bed 90 minutes before it started.” In fact, I tried and couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen Saturday Night Live, er, live.

In addition to my children, I blame Eastern Time.

When we lived in Winnipeg, we faithfully watched CSI Miami … both for the pretty pictures and to make fun of the David Caruso character, Lt. Horatio Caine. As soon as we moved east, we dropped the habit. The show starts at 10 p.m. here. Ten!!!

We struggle, really struggle, to make it through a show that starts at 9. Without our DVR, I don’t think we’d watch any television. OK, that’s not true, but we wouldn’t watch any “shows.”

Another casualty of going to bed just after the sun goes down? I miss the end of every single prime time sporting event.

This month, I came to work for two weeks to colleagues raving about the NBA finals and Stanley Cup, having missed the end of every single basketball and hockey game. I even stayed up for the end of regulation of Game 2 in the hockey finals – only to hear the next morning that the winning goal was scored 11 seconds into overtime. I didn’t see any of the sad images of Vancouver on fire, but maybe that’s for the best.

If college-age me knew just how early I went to bed now, he’d hang his head in shame. But just-turned-40 Brendan would gently issue a reminder that, “Brendan, I’m old.”

Brendan O’Hallarn writes White Knuckles every Wednesday in WYDaily, a weekly column about the life of a hapless parent. C’mon along for the madcap ride. If you have a thought, email Brendan at mailto. Or find him on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/#!/White__Knuckles.

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